Review: Pandora Hearts

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Convoluted story plots? Lots of crying? Well, that sounds like a regular trip down anime lane. This time around we’re talking about Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki which was publish by Square Enix. In 2009 it was made into an anime by Xebec, which is perhaps best known for Love Hina and D.N. Angel. The manga recently ended in March while the anime only ran 25 episodes, like many anime of the 2009 era did. However that doesn’t take away that this series had a lot of good and bad going for it.

There will be light spoilers as a lot does happen with in the first 10 chapters of the manga that don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the actual storyline.

Oz Vessalius is about to undergo his coming-of-age ceremony, which happens to all rich people at age 15. Except that doesn’t quite happen, instead Oz is cast into a place only known as the Abyss, with the words that his sin is his very existence. From there he meets a girl named Alice, other was known as the B-Rabbit, or the Bloodstained Black Rabbit. She is a chain, which is an existence from the abyss that cannot leave without contracting with a human, and she wants to find her memories. They make a contract and escape the Abyss only to find that it is in fact ten years later and that they only have so long before their contract is up and the two of them are dragged back to the Abyss.

The main character is Oz Vessalius, the heir to the Vessalius dukedom. He’s a spoiled brat, but incredibly considerate in not letting people know he is sad, most likely due to the absence and rejection of his father. However this also creates a creepy vibe surrounding him. He’s a bit of a sadist, knowing exactly what to say to get what he wants. Oz never seems to worry about the dangers that are all around him, instead he faces them rather bravely. He almost seems to accept dangers upon himself, as though he had a death wish.

Alice the B-Rabbit is our main heroine, a chain who feels compelled by Oz’s presence. She is as equally a brat as he is. Once in the world she finds that there is a lot she doesn’t know or understand and tries to find out what she is missing. Her goal is to find all of her memories as she only knows her name and what she is, but can’t help feeling that there’s more to it. She is a flurry of emotions that never seemed to be fully realized within her, as she barely understands herself at times.

Gilbert Nightray is Oz’s right hand man, or rather servant. He was there when the ceremony went south, having been possessed by an evil chain and later nearly killed by a sword wound, and he was adopted into the House of Nightray. He like Alice’s has no memories of before he began serving the Vessalius household when he was 8. He is 24 when Oz returns and worries that he has changed too much in the ten years that his master has been away. Gilbert is very self-conscious and aware of his short comings that he often doesn’t see the good things he can do. He possesses the chain known as Raven.

Xerxes Break is an envoy of the Rainsworth house as well as a member of the group Pandora. He is a mysterious character who we slowly but surely get the pieces to over time within the series. Through laughter he hides a more serious side to himself, often pretending that his cruelty is in fact kindness. Altogether though he is a pretty straight forward character who is a lot of fun to read. He is also the only one who questions Oz and who he is. He possesses a chain as well, though I’ll leave the readers to find out what his chain is.

There is a whole bunch of other characters to talk about, but that would also include a lot of spoilers.

The art in this series is a journey to watch, it was already pretty good at the beginning of the series, but as the story progressed the art improved tenfold. Mochizuki’s line work became much softer and the emphasis on eyes became more and more apparent. Each character is unique and you never have to flounder to try and distinguish which character is which, except for specific times when Mochizuki wants you to be confused. It has both harshness and well placed softness. Now, if only the anime had done the same. Like many 25 episode animes, Pandora Hearts had pretty shotty production and a lot of cringe worthy scenes in terms of animation. It’s not a very pretty anime, but that’s why I suggest the manga if you’re going for more impressive art. However, this anime did have a splendid use of background animation, each setting being really well detailed in its environment. That is quite a plus and the anime never tries to be something it isn’t. Which, at least it knows it isn’t good?

Sound wise, well the anime did have a pretty generic opening with Parallel Hearts by FictionJunction. The first ending was Maze. Honestly none of the music really stands out, it doesn’t have a strong sense of what the anime is, and instead it falls flat in trying to convey something that we as viewers can’t grasp. In terms of voice acting we do have Kosuke Toriumi as Gilbert, known for his past roles as Kiba from Naruto or Ishimaru from Dangan Ronpa. Or Akira Ishida as Break, better known Naruto’s Gaara or Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Kaworu.  However, this doesn’t distract from the fact that this anime isn’t ultimately interesting in comparison to the manga. There isn’t an English dub, so if you plan on seeking out the anime, get ready for subtitles. This isn’t a gripe, but the anime is just not as good in comparison to the manga, and it may just be that it didn’t get the chance to be as good.

Ultimately I find Pandora Hearts to be a bit contrived in all it does, but it is ultimately enjoyable. However, I personally would go in favor of the manga, as it is a fully complete product that leaves nothing to be desired. It doesn’t ask much from the viewer, whereas the anime seems to struggle to keep up. With the manga finished however, you can fully get the feel of what Pandora Hearts is truly about! It isn’t a disappointment, the manga is incredibly fun to go through, and the anime just has a lot that could have been better.

Pandora Hearts: 7/10